Part two of this month's Style Sheet takes the strong, malty bock style to the next level with the dopplebock, sort of like a bock on steroids. The morning after sampling a half-dozen German dopplebocks with a group of friends, my head feels like it has been kicked by a couple of rams. Real ones, not like the little plastic ones that hang from the neck of bottles of Celebrator, perhaps the most well-known example of the style. But it was worth it to experience these rich, complex lagers.
First brewed by the Brothers of St. Francis of Paula in Munich, dopplebocks, like the original bock style, were intended as "liquid bread" to sustain the monks during the Lenten fast. The original versions were less attenuated, and thus sweeter and lower in alcohol than modern versions. The monks began to offer their beer to the public as Paulaner, and the dopplebock was known as "Salvator," or "savior." That name is copyrighted, but other brewers sought to capitalize on the familiarity of the name by ending their names with "-ator." Besides Salvator and Celebrator, you'll also find Optimator, Maximator and Bajuvator.
Dopplebocks are characteristically sweet and smooth, with a low hop bitterness and little to no hop aroma. Alcohol content ranges from 6.5 percent to as much as 12 percent ABV, contributing a warming quality and a spicy presence. The typically deep amber or golden brown color comes from boiling Munich and Vienna malts for a long period, caramelizing the sugars and extracting layers of malt flavor. Cold-cellared for extended periods and filtered, these lagers are clear and tightly structured, with no fruity yeast esters or cloudiness.
The Weihenstephaner Korbinian (http://www.brauerei-weihenstephan.de/index.php?page=home_2_1&;) was the favorite of the lot, with a complex palette of malt sweetness that included caramel, toffee, maple, and cakelike flavors. One taster compared the flavor to the toasted cap of a crème brulee. The silky mouthfeel and round body will have you smiling and going back in for more. A revelation from "the oldest brewery in the world."
Ayinger Celebrator (http://en.ayinger-bier.de/?pid=118&par=82) is probably the most well-known and highly regarded dopplebock. Dark brown with sparkling ruby highlights and a tight, cream-colored head, Celebrator has a wonderful aroma of raisins, sweet bread and toasted malts. The caramel and molasses sweetness that dominates the taste is tempered by a mineral tang and a moderate bitterness. Full-bodied and memorable, this is a unique creation.
Tucher's Bajuvator (http://www.tucher-usa.com/products.htm) is a pleasant surprise. Chocolate and orange flavors combine for a pleasing dessert-style sipper. Caramel and toffee flavors are strong, and like the Korbinian, it has a silky smooth and creamy mouthfeel, but with a thinnish body.
The Ettaler Curator (http://www.kloster-ettal.de/brauerei/) is a strong (9 percent ABV), complex dopplebock with a hoppier character than most German examples. Brewed by Benedictine monks at their monastery in Bavaria, the Curator exhibits toasted malt, dark fruit, grape- and tealike flavors, countered by grassy hops that contribute to a crisp, bitter finish.
Even stronger than the Curator are the Eggenberg Urbock 23° (http://www.schloss-eggenberg.at/) from Austria at 9.6 percent, the only beer in our sampling from outside of Germany, and the Aventinus Weizen Eisbock at a whopping 12 percent ABV. The Eggenberg pours golden and clear with almost no head. Sweet and tart with a strong alcohol bite and a bit of hop spice, this is beer is not for everyone, and it drew mixed reactions at the tasting. The Aventinus eisbock (ice bock) is made by freezing the weizenbock and drawing off the ice to concentrate the malt flavors and alcohol, in the same way that Bud Ice is made, but with a much better result. Virtually exploding with floral, yeasty aromas of banana and clove, the flavor is fruity, spicy and boozy, like gluhwein. This was a favorite of several tasters. Big, bold and complex.
Check out Jeff's beer pick of the week here.